Singapore has chosen a very different response to the COVID-19 pandemic than the US. While it is more restrictive upon entry with a required 14-day quarantine for anyone coming in from overseas, it has allowed the island to maintain more normalcy overall.
The government has partnered with several high end hotels such as The Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott and Shangri-la, to use their excess capacity as quarantine facilities. This has given the hotels the ability to continue operating rather than having to furlough employees and provides comfortable accommodations for those of us quarantining.
It is a true quarantine
We are not allowed to leave our room and there are a number of systems in place to ensure that we don’t. Twice a day, the immigration authority (ICA) calls to verify you are in your room with video. Every few days, we get an in-person visit from ICA agents at our hotel who verify each person against their records. It’s all been very friendly, unlike what you read about ICE agents in the US, there is a general assumption that you ARE following the rules.
In addition to the ICA check-ins, the hotel calls every afternoon to get temperature readings for the entire family. Additionally, the room keys are one-time use, so if you left your room, you would be stuck outside. It’s a luxury prison with full wi-fi and unlimited deliveries. It’s not so bad but we will be ready to get out.
Anything we need, is delivered in a contactless manner. Each room has a table in front of the room where food, fresh towels and laundry are delivered. With the exception of trash, it is pretty much a one-way delivery.
What about food?
We filled out a form for our basic dietary requirements such as vegetarian, halal, no shellfish, etc. Accommodations are made primarily for religious and life threatening allergies but there is no option for low carb or gluten-free diets.
The food is pretty industrial, like what you find on airlines and in hospitals. It’s meant to feed a lot of people efficiently and inexpensively. Breakfast tends to be eggs with sausage and some vegetables accompanied by either hashbrowns, rice, or toast. It is paired with apple or orange juice and either cookies (yes, cookies) or granola bars.
Lunch and dinner can be anything from sweet and sour pork, curry with rice, pasta, fish either steamed or fried. Cuisines vary and take into account the major people groups on the island (Malay, Chinese, Indian or Western ex-pats). Vegetables consist of one piece of broccoli and two cherry tomatoes most meals. It is always paired with cans of Coke or Sprite.
We can order from the room service menu but the majority of the hotel is people quarantining so the selection is limited. Family has delivered food to us as well but it must be left with a security guard outside the property before being brought to our room. Our family is not even allowed on the hotel property.
Every 3 days, we send our laundry and towels out. These need to be placed in a water soluble bag that the hotel staff simply drops into the machine without exposing themselves to our dirty laundry. It’s quite brilliant actually.
For the most part, we wash our laundry by hand. The hotel washes things on hot water and most of the clothes we have been wearing are comfortable yoga clothes. Despite wearing mostly quick-drying synthetics, it still takes forever to dry with the high humidity here. If we don’t put everything out by 10am, mildew sets in and make the clothes smell terrible. It’s a pretty nasty smell but we’ve had fun doing some clothes drying experiments with the equipment available.
We’ve found that washing the clothes, wrapping them in a towel and stomping on them is the most efficient method. It also provides some exercise for restless children.
While we may be bored, the strict quarantine measures have allowed children to go back to school, businesses to reopen and life to continue with less restrictions than we have in California. After months of staying home in San Francisco and now serving our mandatory quarantine here, we are ready to go back to school and get our hair cut.